New Economic Study: Neither Conservatives Nor Liberals Understand Public’s Economic Fears

[Average Americans] understand the economy differently – and view it much more negatively – than Bush Administration officials, Wall Street analysts and conservative economists who stress positive macro-economic statistics. Indeed, nothing raises the public ire more than the elites saying this is a good economy, which seems to deny the hard work and inventiveness of people who raise their living standards against the odds. However, conservatives are not alone in this disconnect with the public on the economy, as liberal elites portrayal of Americans as passive victims also alienates their intended audience. These liberal elites underestimate Americans’ emphasis on personal responsibility and greatly overestimate the degree to which they see themselves as victims in the current economy.

The above is an excerpt from one of two studies recently made available online by the Economic Policy Institute:

  • “The Economic Disconnect: How Both the Left and the Right Get It Wrong,” Dec. 5, 2006, 11 pages.
  • “Talking Past Each Other: What Everyday Americans Really Think (and Elites Don’t Get) About the Economy,” December 2006, 64 pages.

Some excerpts from Economic Disconnect:

  • The opening excerpt above.
  • “Americans are dissatisfied with the national economy, and are doubtful it will improve in the future. This is an economy defined by its inability to produce rising incomes in the face of growing financial pressures, though people are proud of their efforts to overcome these systemic obstacles.”
  • “Over two thirds of the country view the economy negatively. … The public’s central perspective is of a middle class in decline, badly squeezed between rising costs, reduced benefits, and stagnant earnings. The public holds out little hope for the economy improving any time soon, suggesting that these current problems may reflect a structural change.”
  • “Americans see themselves as largely on their own in the current economy, but they are eager for the government to take on a more active role to help ease their financial burden in areas such as health care, energy and education and support greater regulation of the corporate interests that are seen as contributing to these rising costs.”

Here is a press release which summarizes Talking Past.

Also, here is a link to a recent post I wrote regarding middle-class economics: “Who’s in the Middle Class, How Much Do They Make — and How Much is Left Over?”